Nancy Agabian

The Fear of Large and Small Nations

Good news! Nauset Press will publish my novel, “The Fear of Large and Small Nations”, which I began writing in 2009. An early manuscript was honored as a finalist for the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially-Engaged Fiction. For monthly email updates on the pre-release and launch, sign up for my mailing list.


Disillusioned with George W. Bush’s conservative policies, Natalee – a.k.a. Na – a feminist, bisexual, third-generation Armenian American woman, flees to her distant homeland of Armenia in order to research and write about social justice, particularly for women and LGBTQ people, following the Soviet collapse. Once in Armenia, she suffers an identity crisis as she struggles to learn the language and encounters rigidly traditional gender roles. Na soon falls in love with Seyran, a local Armenian man, a rebellious poet and punk rocker, also bisexual, who seems to value her for who she is. The much younger Seyran fears his upcoming compulsory army service, known to haze soldiers brutally, sometimes fatally, especially if they are different. Na and Seyran eventually marry and move to New York, where their relationship crumbles as he transforms into an absurd paradox: an ascetic yogi who pursues adulterous affairs. The story centers around Na’s struggle to leave Seyran, for whom she feels responsible.

Structurally, each chapter travels in time between Yerevan, the capital of Armenia (2006-7) and Queens, NY (2009-11), as Na reflects on her choices and behavior. Alternating between the first and third person, each chapter is composed of blog posts, journal entries, short stories, and commentary, varying in voice and tone to represent Na’s compartmentalized identity as she survives an abusive relationship. Infused with cultural observations and references to current events in both countries, the story is set atop a web of traditional values, government corruption, and intergenerational trauma stemming from multiple legacies of genocide and violence.

Though Na initially goes to Armenia to learn about small places and to reclaim her ethnic identity, she eventually discovers herself as an American. As Na’s co-dependence meets Seyran’s narcissism, a metaphor results that illuminates the complex contradictions existing between political ideals and personal liberation, across privilege and disadvantage.

Escaping her fears and insecurities by attempting to rescue another person leads Na to her downfall. Through her work facilitating writing workshops with women in Armenia; an honest examination of her parents’ fifty-year marriage; and her friendship with Mardi and Gharib, a transnational gay male Armenian couple, she learns to love and accept herself despite her cultural losses as a diasporan Armenian American. Ultimately, the novel advocates for a process of breaking through self- and culturally-imposed stories and myths as a way to make positive change in oneself and in one’s community.